Burger champing at the bit
Springbok veteran Schalk Burger is spoiling to make his long awaited Super Rugby return for the Stormers after a two-year injury-enforced absence.
Springbok veteran Schalk Burger is keen to make his long awaited Super Rugby return for the Stormers after a two-year injury-enforced absence.
The decorated loose forward finally returned to action in the final quarter of Western Province’s Currie Cup encounter against the Free State Cheetahs last September following a variety of different injuries and ailments.
Burger sustained a knee injury in the opening round of the 2012 Super Rugby season and suffered a calf injury upon his return to the paddock in a pre-season game last year.
His comeback was stymied further when he underwent surgery to remove a cyst that was pressing against his spinal cord last March, but complications saw him contract bacterial meningitis.
He spent six weeks in hospital and another eight weeks indoors before he finally returned to fitness. The 2004 IRB Player of the Year was eased back into action by Western Province and showed glimpses of the Burger of old in an impressive performance for the Barbarians against Fiji last December.
After making it through the Twickenham clash unscathed and being named vice-captain of the Stormers on Wednesday, Burger is counting down the days to his return to the Super Rugby stage.
“It was really nice to get 80 minutes under the belt for the Barbarians, it helped my confidence immensely and it was really nice to get back and play on such a big stage,” the 68-Test veteran said on Wednesday.
“After missing out on nearly two years of rugby, there’s a lot of desire and hopefully I can start playing good rugby again.
“The mind is super keen and let’s hope the body holds up.”
Burger will serve as Jean de Villiers’ deputy, the Springbok skipper being entrusted with the captaincy of the Cape-based side.
De Villiers, though, said a core of experienced players would work as a leadership group within the team.
“It’s always a great honour to be selected as captain,” said De Villiers.
‘For us as a squad we’ve built a good senior group and I’ll rely a lot on them. I’ll be working closely with Schalk and the other senior players as ultimately, a captain is only as good as his seniors and fellow players."
De Villiers added that the squad had developed and learnt from their troublesome 2013 campaign.
“We’ve definitely matured as a squad and you can see that the guys are taking more responsibility in individual performances and making decisions on the field.”
The Stormers, who missed out on the play-offs and finished seventh last year, kick off their on-field preparations for the upcoming season with the first of three friendlies against the Bulls in Polokwane on Saturday, February 1.
They play the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Friday, February 6 before their final warm-up fixture against Boland in Wellington on Saturday, February 15.